How To Care For Fine China And Glass?
Set of ‘best’ china – probably received as a wedding present – may see the light of day only a couple of times a year. We are more likely to have one china set which is used every day and replace things as they get broken. If you own or want to buy a set of really good china or glasses, you will realize that replacing broken pieces is going to be a very expensive business, so it pays to know how to look after it.
Ceramics are surprisingly durable. They can withstand heat and they will not fade in sunlight. They are not susceptible to pest damage. What they cannot withstand is rough handling. Washing them in very hot water can cause thermal shock and crack them.
Even putting something down sharply can cause hairline cracks that can ‘travel’ down a piece at an alarming rate. And when there are children or pets around you are asking for trouble. Always lift large pieces of china and glass with both hands. Hold glasses by their stems. Do not lift anything up by its spout.
If you need to move an object any distance – when, say, a room is being emptied before redecorating – carry it in a box that you have padded with a towel. This enables you to carry more than one piece at a time, but do not cram them in. To carry several plates at a time, slip paper plates between them to cushion them.
If you want fine china to last, it should never be washed in the dishwasher, even if it is marked ‘dishwasher-proof’. The chemicals in dishwasher detergent are very harsh. They take off the glaze, and over time the decoration will wear away. Nothing is 100% dishwasher-proof. Always wash fine china by hand.
Lead crystal glasses washed in the dishwasher will quickly develop a bloom that is impossible to remove. Wash glasses in warm water with a dash of washing-up liquid. Do not hold the glass too tight, especially round the rim.
Rinse in plain water to which you have added a splash of vinegar, and put to drain on a clean tea towel. Finally, polish off the last few water spots with a soft, dry tea towel. Mictofiber cloths are particularly good at polishing glasses. Polish gently, and avoid holding the stem and twisting the glass to dry the bowl – this is when breakages occur.
Storing fine china and glass
Stack plates and saucers according to size (not too many at once), interleaving them with a white kitchen towel or paper plates to prevent the pattern or glaze getting scratched. Bowls of the same size can be stacked, again interleaved with kitchen towel, but do not stack bowls of different sizes because the accumulated weight may make them stick together. Do not stack cups at all, for the same reason. If the shelves are deep, store smaller items as the front.
Fine china cups should not be hung on hooks, but should be placed on shelves right side up. People often store cups and glasses upside down because it keeps the dust out, but the rims of glasses can easily get chipped and gilt decoration on teacups can get worn away. If you do not use them very often, store them in the boxes they came in where possible. If they are to be kept on a shelf, lay a sheet of acid-free tissue paper over the top to keep the dust out. Of course, that isn’t desirable in a glass-fronted display cupboard.
When storing china and glass that is not in daily use, wrap each piece individually in acid-free tissue paper. You can also get specially designed cotton storage bags in different sizes for teacups, coffee cups, plates and so on.